2022-12-29News Image

by Retired chemist with service in the US nuclear submarine fleet

This one is just a big picture idea and not at all valuable as IP. But, someone has to get the big ideas out in the public arena if we are going to survive. If you are interested in a collaboration, my suggestion is to submit a proposed post to the blog site titled “Seeking Collaborators on Carbon Capture” which includes your contact information.

Let’s face it, carbon dioxide is pretty useless stuff. Any talk of converting it into some useful compound for making plastics or whatever is easily shown to be uneconomical, both from an energy point of view and from the dismally small impact on climate change. It’s a thermodynamic pit; that’s why we get so much energy out of making it in the first place.

Being such a stable substance means it is pretty inert to most chemical attacks. And who needs 50 billion tons of it anyway? That’s the scale of removal that will make a difference.

The IPCC tells us that carbon capture will be necessary to prevent catastrophic climate disasters. Not emission reduction but actual carbon removal is NECESSARY.

But how? I offer a way by an individual who has spent a life at sea. First, so to say, I was under the sea in my service in United State’s navy nuclear powered submarine fleet. Thereafter, so to say, I was on top of the sea in my own private inboard/outboard motor boat.

The only means of tackling a really big problem is with a really big solution, and the biggest solution we have is the oceans.
Given that carbon dioxide is chemically inert it seems reasonable to seek physical means instead. Fortunately, carbon dioxide has a relatively high boiling point, relative to nitrogen and oxygen that is. At sea level pressure carbon dioxide sublimes, going from solid to gas directly. But if one took a balloon of air and pulled it down into the depths of the ocean the increased pressure would liquefy the gas. The rest of the air would still be gaseous. Thus, the carbon dioxide could be easily separated from the air by a process that is essentially a distillation. In a flexible-wall container the liquid is now at ambient temperature and pressure, sitting in a bladder on the bottom of the ocean. Because it is chemically inert the containment material need not be exotic, polyethylene would work just fine (the plastic is already out there in the ocean anyway)

This would need to be done at a huge scale. At 400 ppm, a cubic meter of air has only 400 cubic centimeters of gaseous carbon dioxide at STP, which would become about 0.4 mL of liquid carbon dioxide, so thousands and thousands of cubic meters of air would need to be treated. I haven’t done the engineering, that would be a waste of everyone’s time, but the good news is that this could be done anywhere the ocean is deep enough; the ocean is pretty cold everywhere at depth. So every country with a coastline could participate.

Jobs, you ask? Of course there would be a lot of jobs in such an enterprise, not all high level.

Money, you ask? How much will it cost to do nothing? Not you, your grandchildren.